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Donnie and the Dry Heavers are ready for their first tour

Matthew Lane • Sep 29, 2019 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Donnie and the Dry Heavers, a Kingsport-based indie blues jam band will soon be hitting the road in a converted FedEx truck (complete with bunk beds), traveling throughout the Midwest and East Coast on their very first tour.

It begins on Oct 16 and lasts for 39 days. The guys are calling it their “Shoe-String” tour.

Rather appropriately named, the band admits, and as of last week reality had not hit the guys just yet, drummer Cameron Hite said. “At about the half-way mark, we’ll have realized just what we’ve gotten ourselves into,” he said as his bandmates nodded in agreement.

Regardless of whether reality has fully set in for the four young men who make up the Dry Heavers, the kickoff for the tour is fast approaching. The first leg will carry the guys through Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

After a weekend back home for the Halloween Bash at the Kingsport Farmers Market, the Dry Heavers then head back out for a stint along the East Coat — North Carolina, Virginia, our nation’s capital, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Massachusetts.

“It’s our first time out, and we really wanted to run ourselves ragged and see essentially how much we can carry,” Hite said.

When all is said and done, the band will have played 41 or 42 venues during the course of the tour, bringing home “multiple dollars” and a lot of pennies, they said. But it’s not so much about the money. It’s about the experience, getting to go on the road and the opportunities that come next.

“It would be so nice to play music and make money for a living,” Hite said. Chance Lawson, vocalist and guitarist, quickly chimed in, ”It’s our dream, but we don’t just expect it to happen. It’s a full-time job for us.”

LEARNING TO LOVE

Donnie and the Dry Heavers are a four-member band made up of the aforementioned Hite and Lawson, along with Niko Graham (bass and keyboards) and Andrew Kramer (vocals, guitar and trumpet).

Graham is originally from San Diego and moved to Kingsport when he was in the seventh grade.

Hite started taking drum lessons at age 10, was a drummer in middle school, but he chose not to continue in high school. One summer camp of practice was enough for him.

“At that same time I was in a rock band with friends, and I just wanted to play in a band,” Hite said.

Kramer on the other hand, played all through high school. Lawson, who played tenor saxophone beginning in the fourth grade, felt high school band was too much like the Army and, like Hite, dropped out.

And yet the music played on through high school, just in a different venue. At home and at friends’ houses. Then, about 18 months ago, the four men played together at the Tap House, and it just clicked.

“We’ve got a really good thing going between the four of us,” Kramer said. “We’re really comfortable and realize a lot of our hidden talents come through in different ways.”

Throughout the next couple of weeks, the playing and jamming and improvising continued, and the chemistry became even more apparent. Thus the band was born.

So, wait a minute, who’s Donnie?

“We were a two-man group for a very short while, and we were playing under different names each time,” Hite said. “We hadn’t thought of our random name one night, so Chance just blurts out Donnie and the Dry Heavers on a whim. It was kind of an accident.”

The name stuck, and the fans seem to like it.

“People think my name is Donnie,” Lawson said.

 SPOILED BY THE FANS

The Model City Tap House is Donnie and the Dry Heavers “home base” (given how two members work there) and the band consistently performs at a number of other Tri-Cities venues, such as High Voltage, the Beer Run, Gypsy Cider, Studio Brew, and the Willowtree.

They’ve been as far west as Nashville and as far east as Raleigh. Kramer and Graham both say the band has been spoiled by their fans.

“Oh yeah, we’ve been exceptionally spoiled locally with our following. We’re very fortunate by having a lot of early adopters who have stuck around and following us around,” Graham said. “We play music that’s inspired by older tunes, and a lot of our diversity in our fan base comes from that since we don’t play anything with any semblance to modern, rock radio.”

“In Kingsport there’s not as much of a younger crowd, but the people we’ve been spoiled by are a lot older than us and it’s a good mix,” Kramer said.

Hite agrees and said the people who come to their shows represent a broad demographic range.

“We play at the Tap House every first and third Thursday, and that crowd alone feels like family,” Hite said. “We see a lot of the same people and pick up conversations from the last time we saw them.”

The band has its own website (www.dryheavers.com) and YouTube page and around the first of December, plans to release its music on all streaming platforms. The band recently submitted an order to have its first album pressed and will soon have CDs for sale.